The Hops Report

 

This site is dedicated to journalizing my hops growing experience. If you have any questions or want to share some advice, you can email me at matt @ mattarata dot com.

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The rhizome was obtained from Max in a plastic bag. The bag was kept at room temperature for a few weeks before I got around to planting it (plus it was on the cold side, with several unusual cold days in May in Chicago - so better safe than sorry i guess).

The rhizome was planted on or about 6/7/05 in a small pot pictured below (the small green pot in the front). The initial shoots began to grow within a few days. After a few days of growing I transferred the plant into the larger white pot. By 6/14/05 there were about 5 seperate shoots growing. I pruned down all but 2 of the shoots. I trained the larger of the two shoots around a cotton string tied between the pot and the railing. I drilled a few holes in the top lip of the pot to hold the string. At this point the larger shoot was about 2.75' up the string and the small shoot was only a few inches. Dirt is the pot is the cheapest I could find at Home Depot - about $2 for a 20lb bag. I will say that there is some other types of dirt in the pot because the original pot was composed of random potting soil that was lying around. No additional fertializer was added. This location faces south and gets probably 8-10 hours of direct sunlight a day.


6/21/05
Total height is now approximately 4.25'
No more shoots have sprouted after the pruning yet. I kinda hope that some sprout so that I can get a second harvest.



6/28/05
Growing at an average rate of about 1.7 feet per week. (previous week was 1.5' this week was 1.91' of growth)
We are now at 6'2" on the main shoot with the 2nd shoot at 2'8". A small shoot is starting to bud and I think I will train that up along
the string for the main shoot. I have been watering the pot at least once a day, usually in the morning sometimes twice in a day if the top of the soil is dry. The two smaller pots now contain cucumbers started indoors from seeds in little peat pots and then transferred out here.

 

7/5/05
The long weekend appears to have given more of the same to the hops. We are now at 7.83' on the main shoot. Continuing the same rate of growth (about 1.7' per week). The 2nd picture you can see the bottom of the plant in the pot and you can kinda see how I tied the string to the pot. At this rate of growth (and assuming I somehow get the bine to grow up the front of the house) I suspect it will grow up to around 20' or so.

It would probably be a somewhat longer but the top few inches lost hold of the string or something and fell down a little. And I am too lazy to adjust it - so let nature take its course. It was a little windy here this weekend in the windy city and a stormfront came through, so I am happy that it didnt do any more damage than this.

And in case you are wondering, the cucumbers are doing awesome! I might have to get larger pots!!!

7/13/05
A day late on the report this week, yesterday I neglected to do the measurement and photo, but alas.
Today we are at about 126" but it is getting harder to measure. It is about 120" or so to the top of the black railing from the top of the dirt in the pot. 126" is about 10.5' so if I take a little off for the delay in measurement then this week was a really big week for the hops growing 2.5 feet in a week almost a foot faster than all previous weeks. I will attribute this to two factors. 1) I added some Mircle Grow last Wednesday which had several positive effects and 2) the top part of the plant gets more sun because it is above the shadow so it gets some late afternoon sun.
The plant is now sprouting additional leaf or branches or whatever you call them at every existing leaf point on the top 5 feet or so of the plant, I suspect as a partial result of the Mircle Grow.
Since we are now aboe the black railing, I am going to have to add some additional string or rope going up to the roof of the building. I suspect I can get another 10 feet or so at least of growth.

7/19/05
You can barely see the top of the vine in the picture here, but trust me it is now about 14' tall. Amazingly fast growth. Today I added another half gallon of water with a teaspoon of Mircle Grow. Lots of extra leafs shoots sprouting from each original leaf. I ran a piece of binders twine to the roof of the building and the top 4' of the vine is wrapped around the twine. The vine does not hold as well to the twine as well as it did to the cotton string on the bottom 10'. Cucumbers growing really really well too, you can see to the left of the hops.

 

7/26/05
No pic from this week yet.
Total height is now about 17' tall and nearing impossible to measure further. 3 feet of growth this week and contributing to an average growth rate of about 2.375' per week. Previous weeks growth was 3.5 feet and this week was stunted a little i think due to the very high temps here in Chicago. On Sunday July 24th it was 104 degrees (with heat index of 107). Drought is wreaking havoc on the midwest, but my little garden is doing pretty well due to my 1-2 times per day watering.
Over the last week and a half or so the hops began producing a lot of little bud looking things that I think may end up growing into full size buds, though I cannot be sure as I have never grown this stuff before.
Cucumbers are doing very well, should produce a full size cucumber within the next week I think.
Tomato plant may actually produce something this season though it is looking doubtful for the peppers. Too late a start due to inavility to get seeds to sprout in my apartment - and I am at a loss for a reason for that.

 


8/17/05
So wedding preperations and lighting design work prevented me from making an update in a while.
Total height topped out at about 17-18 feet or so. I had another problem with the string breaking. Note for next time: binders twine does not make a good climbing structure and breaks easily. The cotton string though has worked pretty well and stayed up and one to two bines can climb well on a single string. The 3rd shoot, which i was training up the string with the primary shoot, was severed at the top of the railing due to the string breaking one time and growth on the 2nd shoot is slowing at the top of the railing. The plant as a whole seems to be concentrating on the bud production instead of vertical growth. And there are a lot of buds. I think we should have a harvest for at least one batch of beer if not 2-3, though i can't tell at this point how much yield we will have.
CUCUMBER THIEVES STRIKE
So someone or something has been taking my cucumbers and I am not sure if it is the local mexican/bum population or some kind of animal or both but several of my cucumbers have gone missing before they were ripe enough to pick. I have had at least 4 that could have been picked at some point and was only able to pick and eat one. There is one good one on the bush now that should be ready tomorrow i think, and the only reason it has not been stolen yet is because it is somewhat hidden from view from the sidewalk. So, we will see how we do in the next 2 weeks until I come back from Costa Rica.
BACK TO THE HOPS
Sitll been adding fertilizer every other week, keeping the buds sprouting. I suspect they will be ready to harvest in mid-september sometime. I will be gone from 8/19 - 9/5 so I hop things go well in my absence. I am charging Brian with watering.

 


9/29/05
2 weeks in Costa Rica and 3 weeks cleaning up stuff and doing other stuff has left the hops report in the dust. Brushing off now - bud growth has been fairly steady. We have almost full sized buds in some areas of the plants and I think they are showing signs of being ready to be picked. Also in the last week the temperature dropped a lot. Tonight the low is predicted to be 42F. So I think we will have to harvest within a week or so. I tested a bud today, it was starting to get a little dry, and I think we will be able to get some good flavoring with what is there. Not all the buds are the same large size, but the yeild should still be enough.


As you can see, what hops there are look pretty good. From what I have read, harvesting can start when the edges of the buds start to brown. You can kinda see the browning in these pictures - must be time to harvest!!!

 

The other crops, for the 2nd summer, did not do very well. I got a few cucumbers, but when I came back from costa rica, the cucumbers were dying. Also some animal or something kept eating whatever cucumbers started to grow. Tomatos also kinda sucked. No edible ones yet and it it about to get too cold. Though we did get a bunch of cerrano chili peppers. They taste pretty good as a topping to some taco or something.

dead tomato plants on the left and nice chili plants on the right. :)

 


10-13-05
I picked the majority of the hops on Saturday 10/8. It has been consistantly cold here in Chicago and I decided I wasn't going to get too much more growth waiting any longer. I put the hops I had on this small screen. The first batch, which I picked earlier last week, was larger on average than the rest I picked on Saturday. Those are in the plastic bag in the picture. I dried the first batch on the screen in a closet at work. The closet has a network switch so it circulates air fairly well. Then the rest I dried here at home next to my apartment's exhaust vent. I think I only have a yield of about 1oz of dried hops. So it would seem that I did a lot of work for only a little result.

 


The buds next to the ruler are the largest available.

 

 

10-14-05
Brewing
More details will be available on what exact type of beer we made when I copy them down from the notes.
Here are some pictures

The full supply of hops - about 1oz - sitting between two glasses of beer.


Steve poses with the hops (looks a little like a giant bag of weed yeah?)


Steve stirs the wort with the charismatic stiring "spoon"


Boiling the hops in the wort.



Tim drains the wort back into the pot.


Straining the wort into the carboy.


A good amount of beer.